My younger son has a speech delay, my older son a neurological-based speech disorder called apraxia that requires frequent and intensive speech therapy to learn to speak. He didn't say his first words until he was almost four. Devastated by the lack of conversations I got to have with my children, one day I turned to scripture. Surely there was a passage or verse about speech that would encourage me, right?
Yes there was--several in fact. And I'm going to share my favorites with you now. :)
This is a beautiful passage about a man who was deaf and mute and was brought to Jesus. But the verses I especially love are in verses 34-35.
Jesus looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, "Ephatha!" (which means "be opened!"). At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly."
I love this for many reasons, but especially for my older son who not only has a speech disorder but also a severe hearing loss in one ear. The thought of God being able to open my child's ear and loosen his tongue so my son could clearly speak was something I long for in my child and is a scripture of healing I pray over my son.
But I also just love the fact that it indicates Jesus' care for people no matter how large or small the concern may seem. How much power He has over everything, from the wind and the waves, to the ears and the tongue. He has power over and concern for everything that matters to us.
"Moses said to the Lord, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.
The Lord said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not, I the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."
Moses insists he still cannot speak to Pharoah, and so God tells Moses that his brother Aaron will be able to speak for him.
I love this passage because it shows me three things about God.
"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" Psalm 119:103
Although this is a verse about how much the psalmist loved God's word, I clung to this as a verse about how I felt about each of my children's new words. Each new word they said was sweet and to be savored and celebrated.
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Proverbs 25:11
When my children said their first word and then slowly added to their vocabularies I viewed each of those words as something special to treasure, like an apple of gold in settings of silver.
I then combined the words I liked from both of these verses - 'sweet' from Psalm 119:103 and 'apples of gold' from Proverbs 25:11 to form my new prayer for my children of "Sweet apples of gold." I prayed for new sweet apples of gold in my prayer time with God and on the way to speech therapy and praised God for new sweet apples of gold after my children said a new word or phrase. I honestly love this phrase to refer to my childrens' speech and love how it has become a part of my prayers, praying God's own words to thank Him for the new ones my children can now say.
"You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord."
My older son didn't say his first words until he was almost four. Before then, we relied on nonverbal communication, sign language and a familiarity with my son's ways and routines to guess his needs, just as the first part of the verse indicates. God knows us so intimately He knows our needs and our children's needs before we can even communicate them.
Once my son did start talking, due to his apraxia diagnosis his words were often difficult to understand. I constantly had to translate his words to others, but there were times I myself couldn't even figure out what he was saying, and it was frustrating for both of us. One day, both of us in tears trying to understand what my young son was saying, I told him, "Buddy, I'm really trying to understand. I really want to know, I just don't. But God does. God knows what you're saying and you're thinking." And I remembered that concept came from a verse and I looked it up and added it to my arsenal of scriptures to pray regarding speech for my children.
It encourages me to know that when I can't understand my own children, there is Someone who can, and He loves them just as much as me. And it is a concept I can remind to my children--"Buddy, I don't know what you're saying. I want to and I'm trying. But God knows every word on your tongue, and every word you're thinking and cannot say." And that reassures both of us.
UPDATE (added August 19, 2019) I have had multiple people ask for an update on how my boys' speech is now.
They are now 9 and 7 years old and I'm happy to report they have made tremendous progress in their speech and language and I believe that it is a factor of God's grace, great speech therapists, wonderful teachers, and parents who support them to the best of our ability.
They still attend speech therapy to work on harder sounds for them, such as L, R and TH. But they are both speaking in complete sentences. Strangers can understand all or most of what they are saying. It has been beautiful to watch their speech and language flourish, and we are so proud of how hard they work to learn to do something that comes so naturally to most children.
Keep pressing on and keep praying, my friend! It's not an easy journey, but it is definitely worth it!